Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I'm not a Luddite, but I do have a basic distrust of technology. I'm not that old--I'm 40--but I remember a prewired world, and it seemed to work much better than the one we're living in now. The last time I wrote on a regular basis was back in the nineties--last century!--when you could still submit manuscripts by mail. No computers for me, thanks, I wrote on a typewriter. (An electric, not a manual. I wasn't that much of a purist.)

Since then, honestly, I tried my best to avoid computers, what with them being the enemy and all. But sooner or later, even the scrappiest of rebels must admit defeat, and I found myself acquiring a home computer.

Since it came with a free trial period of AOL--crappy dial-up service though it may be--finding a DHL provider wasn't an immediate concern. I figured I'd just go with Qwest, since they were my phone company.

But like a bolt out of the blue, in stepped a company that shall remain nameless. They offered me a great deal on phone service, but I had concerns. If I wanted high-speed internet through Qwest, it would be much cheaper to keep them as my phone company and get the package deal.Ah yes, my sales rep said, but I've just been authorized to inform potential customers that we will be providing high-speed service very soon. Okay, I said, but how soon is soon? Two weeks to a month.

The company soliciting me was smaller, based in the midwest, seemed a little more personalized. It's in my nature to shun giant corporations whenever possible, to "run with the little guy" as the folks at Jones Soda once put it. And the price was pretty good. So I said yes.

That was sometime around the end of February.

Time passes. It's mid-April, and I realize my AOL trial period will end soon, and frankly, I'm sick of dial-up. So I call my new phone company to inquire about price plans.

"Oh, we don't offer DSL at this time. We might be offering it soon, though."

Might? Soon? But when I signed up, I was told it was a definite.

"Well, we've been testing lines."

Testing lines? Isn't that what you do before you buy coke?

Customer service guy ignored my joke. "We want to make sure, once we offer high-speed access, that everything works properly. That's why we test, sir."

Yeah, I understand that. But I was told it WOULD be offered, and in this time frame. Now you're telling me it might happen at some unspecified time.

"Should be within a month, sir."

Should be, but I was told it would be, and over a month ago.


Customer service guy promised to check with his boss and call me back. I never heard back. When I called again, pretty much the same conversation transpired, although this guy at least put me through to his boss. She promised to "get to the bottom of it" and call me back. It's been two days, and I've heard nothing.

Corporations are impersonal by nature, and if not inherently evil, they usually represent the Dark Side. But they do usually provide the service they claim they'll provide. Qwest may be soulless, but they did everything they said they would.

It's a possibly romantic notion that a small, locally owned company is somehow better. But it seems that it should be, smaller should mean more personalized, more in tune with where you live. But it's the same thing that can happen when you bypass Starbucks for a local coffeehouse, only to get stuck with some art-hack poseur behind the counter, offering unsolicited opinions on subjects he only half understands. Suddenly Starbucks seems okay. Sure, you have to put up with Norah Jones playing in the background, and tune out the yuppies. But at least it's not aggrivating.

I'm still waiting to hear back from my phone company. In all likelihood, I'll go back to Qwest for internet AND phone service. The corporation wins. The little guy loses. It's not right, but that's the way of the world.